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Open Communication

“Then Moses said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded you to do, so that that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.” Leviticus 9:6

Holy God, it amazes me that you, in your infinite and powerful ways wants to talk to me.  That the God of the universe wants me to come to you each and every day with my needs and my fears.  Today I come to you with praise and thanksgiving that you love me so much.  Amen

I heard a description of an early  “church service” the other day.  The first half was open to anyone and featured scripture reading and the teaching of the gospel.  Then the pastor would call out, “the doors, the doors” and it was the message to those who were not baptized or confessed believers to leave.  The doors would then be closed and the second half of the service commenced.  This is when the holy gift of communicating with God began.  The church membership would have an “upper room” type meeting with breaking of bread and prayer to the Most Holy One.

What I like about this is that shows reverence to the second greatest blessing God bestowed on us (the first being Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins) – a loving, two-way path communicating with God.  A gift given to believers by Jesus and spurred on by the Holy Spirit that lives in the children of God.  I’m not suggesting only believers should pray, it’s just an acknowledgement of the seriousness of this gift we’ve been given.

In the Bible verse today, we see the seeds of God’s desire to communicate with us in the priestly ministry of the ancients.  God spoke through Moses on how to address Him through sacrifices and other holy activities.  He tells the priests in training that when they take these steps, they will see God’s glory revealed to them.  The same is true with the gift of prayer.  

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

The disciples, just as in Moses’ day, desired to learn how to communicate with God.  How to open up the heavens so they could see the glory of the One Almighty.  And so Jesus taught them the prayer I mentioned yesterday, what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It starts with reverence, placing God in our hearts and minds rightly where He belongs.  It moves on to acknowledging God as the provider of all our needs and our submission to Him.  We then ask for forgiveness and to forgive others.  And finally for daily guidance.

The gift of prayer is God’s message to us that we are not believers of a god who is unable to do all things, or a god who can’t be trusted, or a god to whom we need to beg to hear us.  Before we pray we need to be fully informed of how we view Him.  If we don’t believe He is merciful then we might believe He will punish us if we bring our sins to Him.  Our prayers should always include a request for wisdom about Him so that when He answers our prayer – which He always does – we will understand the answer and see the glory in His ways.

Today, I want to leave you with this beautiful prayer from King David showing us how to glorify and praise God in all His magnificent ways.

Psalm 63

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
    they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
    and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
    all who swear by God will glory in him,
    while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
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Sing Of The Lord

“Glory is his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. “ 1 Chronicles 16:10

Holy God when I seek to worship you through song today help me to distinguish between music that elevates You rather than me.  I want to lift up my voice in celebration of You – your glory and majesty and power.  Amen

Last year my husband and I were attending a church that had an excellent teaching pastor.  However, for various reasons we decided to keep looking for a church that fit more of our needs.  We had become friends with the pastor so I felt the need to talk with him about why this church just didn’t seem like the right place to call “home.”  Way down on my list was the music.  It wasn’t a gamechanger but I included it just for feedback.  My comment was that I was sure, because I’ve heard some before, there was music to be sung written after the 1800s.  He agreed and replied, “Yes, but I don’t like the ”Jesus Is My Boyfriend” music either.

Music has always played a role in the world’s religions – whether hummed, chanted, drummed, or played in an arena like a rock band.  But no other religion finds itself with a songbook as large, widespread and popular as Christianity.  We have songs to celebrate the life of Jesus, to thank the Lord for rescuing us, songs to remind us of the pain Jesus suffered for us, songs to inspire us to trust in the Lord and songs to glorify God.  And it’s important to pay attention to when we fall into the trap of honoring the work we do rather than the work God does.  We also don’t want to reduce Jesus to our “buddy” or as the pastor said, our boyfriend.

"Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!" Psalm 105:2

This got me thinking about the different types of Christian music and when we should be singing ones that are written solely for the purpose of glorifying God.  Now some of you might be thinking, “if it’s Christian music, doesn’t it all do that?”  If that’s your initial thought I’d like to challenge you to listen to the words of the favorite songs you hear on the radio, and maybe even in your church.  Are the lyrics really about you or about God’s glory, holiness, power and authority?  Here’s a popular song by Phil Wickham that I have in my Christian playlist:

"I searched through the Earth for something that could satisfy
A peace for the hurt I had buried deep inside
Knees on the floor, I finally found everything I needed
You lifted my soul and opened up my eyes

I never knew anything lasts forever
Till I found You, till I found You
I never dreamed anything could be better
Till I found You, till I found You
You're rewriting my story
And I'm brand new like a morning
Oh, I never knew anything lasts forever
Till I found You
Till I, till I found You"

In just these few lines the word “I” or “my” is repeated 16 times.  So who are we really singing about here? This song is perfect for expressing to the world how we were changed by our faith.  But it is not really a song glorifying God.

When my youngest was a teenager, she thought it funny when she would play a song in the car that had cuss words in it.  She wanted to see my reaction.  She didn’t think a few bad words here and there were important.  “It’s just a song,” she once said.  We are challenged, as Christians to watch everything that leaves our mouths, even songs.  What we have running on repeat in our head reflects where our heart lies.  When we come into worship are we singing about ourselves or our savior?  

When I selected the music for my wedding, I took care in the messages I wanted to send to my guests about this beautiful union.  Today, when I think of a song to sing glorifying God I want to take the same care.  To focus on Him, not me.


Here’s a few modern songs that glorify God.  Do you have a favorite song that glorifies God?  Add it in the comments!

Only A God by City Alight

Holy, Holy, Holy (various artists)

Worthy of It All by CeCe Winans

Ancient of Days by City Alight

Revelation Song by Kari Jobe

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) by Michael W. Smith

What A Beautiful Name by Hillsong Worship & Brooke Ligertwood

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The Great I Am

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  Exodus 3:14

This week I’ve been reading a lot about going ahead of God.  Thinking I know the right way, the right answer, and moving forward on that path without first seeking God.  I was reminded of when I was asked to be our elementary school’s PTA president.  At the time, the elementary school was the largest in the district with over 1,000 students.  And it was about to undergo a major construction program to build more classrooms.  That meant a lot of turmoil with the way kids were dropped off at school, where classes would be held and how many of our PTA programs would take place.  I told the committee I could do the job but I didn’t think they would want my style of leadership.  I wasn’t an “insider” and didn’t have any qualms about squashing old ways of doing things.  Yet they returned to me multiple times asking me to take the job.  And I did.  

You’ll notice in this story, like we do in so many Biblical stories of failed leaders, that I haven’t mentioned consulting God.  Because I didn’t.  That is, until after I said, “yes.”  I believe it was the next day after I agreed to the job that I had my first of many conversations with the Almighty about this decision.  It went like this, “Lord, I’ve done this thing.  Please help it not be the wrong decision.”  In other words, I went ahead of Him and now wanted Him to fix my mess.

And God was with me throughout the two years of my term.  He was there when I cried myself to sleep.  He was there when I had parents screaming at me over the phone.  And He was there when people who I thought were friends turned their backs on me.  But He didn’t take away the consequences of my decision.  

Thank God that most of the time when I’ve failed to let God lead my life it hasn’t resulted in some horrible final outcome.  He has picked me up and dusted me off.  And after too many times of being on that same wheel I’ve decided to take a different path.  To trust that God is the Great I Am.  The One who has the best laid plans.  Who can make my path much more smooth if I just consult Him first.  If I release my need to be the most knowledgeable, not just about my life but other’s.   

I praise God today, on this final 30th day, for being I Am.  For being the Lord Almighty.  The God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,  and the God of Jacob.  

If you’ve ever seen the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty you’ll see a man who takes this idea of control to the extreme.  He wants to be in charge of his life and no one knows better than him.  So God sort of turns over His powers to him.  And what a mess he makes of it.  At first he thinks answering prayers is so cool and then when he becomes inundated with millions of prayers he just gives everyone what they ask.  And as we know, God doesn’t give us all we ask.  He gives us what we need.  The movie is hilarious to be sure but it speaks to our innate need to be in control.  To take over the job of I Am.  

We can shake our heads at characters like Saul who stop seeking God’s direction and make every mistake possible.  But how many of us today will do the same?  How many of us yesterday forgot to place God at the top of our consultant list and instead called our friends or family for advice?  And then probably did what we originally wanted to do anyway?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

Friends, God is God and we are not, thankfully.  His thoughts and ways are so much better than ours.  If we truly believe this and accept Him as our creator, as an active participant in our lives, then we need to seek His plans for us.  Let’s all start right now by thanking Him for being the Great I Am.


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His Grand Orchestra

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

The other morning my husband and I were out for an early morning walk.  The clouds were building to the east and I commented that I hoped it would rain.  You see, living in Southern California we don’t see a lot of rain.  And I love the rain.  I love the sound of it hitting the pavement, especially when it wakes me in the middle of the night.  We get up just to watch it rain.  I even love the sound of the water hitting under my car as I drive down the road.  There are so few times when the rain becomes a long, monotonous affair where I live that I never get tired of it.  At my daughter’s house in Missouri, I could sit for hours watching and listening to the thunderous rain come down!  

The sound of rain is just one instrument in God’s beautiful orchestra.  The music of His creation is so glorious!  And that’s what I praise today.  

I’ve been praying the last few days for God’s direction for these last few days of praise.  And on my way to have lunch with my parents – which typically is a difficult visit – my playlist of Christian music came on.  A fun and almost silly song began playing which put me in just the right frame of mind for my impending encounter with my parents.  And I praised God for His music.  And then I praised God for putting this entire line of thought in my head!

When I think of all the beautiful instruments in God’s orchestra what also comes to mind are the voices of some of my closest friends.  Their laughter and warmth.  Their sarcasm and wit.  I told one of them, in preparation for her day at a school office, that no matter what is thrown her way I know the office will be blessed with hearing her joyous giggle.

During the stresses of the last year and a half I started doing a sort of mediation technique to help me rest in God’s peace.  When I’m at our local park with my dog I sit down on the grass and do a centering countdown.   It goes like this:

  1. What 10 different things do I see?
  2. What 9 different things do I hear?
  3. What 8 different trees can I find?
  4. What 7 different smells can I smell?
  5. And so on..

It’s amazing just sitting and listening to the music of God’s creation.  The breeze rustling in the trees.   Birds chirping. Children laughing.  Moms talking on their phones.  Cars driving by.  Airplanes overhead.  Bees buzzing.  My dog panting.   So many sounds, some of which are exactly the same as at the time of creation others unique to this very time and place.

And of course, there’s what we traditionally call “music.”  I marvel that since the beginning of time we humans have been creating new types of music and songs.  When you look at a music book there seems to be a limit to what can be created.   There’s only a certain number of notes to use, right?  And yet day after day,  year after year someone creates a new song or even a new sound!  How else can this happen than by some glorious design by a being who loves music and who loves the sounds of the earth?

Praise God for music that speaks to us when we need it most.  Praise God for the sound of crashing waves.  Praise God for thunder and chickens squawking and the crunching of gravel under my feet.  Praise God for his magnificent orchestra of life!


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Repair My Soul, Oh Lord

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  Psalm 23:1-3

A couple of ladies in one of my Bible study groups have had workmen at their houses this year.  If you’ve ever had people working on your house you probably have already conjured up the trials and delays you experienced.  It seems inevitable.  So often promises are made and quickly broken from timeframes to costs.  One of these ladies missed Bible study to be at home for a painter, who had not completed the work the day prior.  The next day the painter arrived only to tell her he was going to another job instead and just needed to pick up his ladder.  After multiple delays the painter fired my friend.  Yes, you read that correctly.  After asking him to give her a better idea of the actual timeframe the painter called her up and said he couldn’t work with her!

Thank goodness when we need work done on our hearts and minds God is a much more trustworthy repairman!  Today I praise God for refreshing us, for fixing our missteps, for repairing our souls.

I was recently talking with a friend about forgiveness.  And what came out of that was the need not only to forgive but to ask God to help repair our hearts and minds of all the negative associated emotions.  Forgiveness is not an easy task when we’ve been hurt, abused, taken advantage of, or even when things or people are taken from us.  And so, we give it to God to help us forgive.  I wonder however, how often when we forgive others do we have a residual bitterness or pain or guilt left in us?  I find this is often the case for me when it comes to having to forgive myself.  When something triggers a bad memory I cringe a bit and that demon called “guilt” or “shame” wants to raise it’s ugly head. 

God doesn’t want us to just forgive but to live a life of forgiveness – a life free from that guilt and shame and bitterness.  All of it. Not one single tiny pocket of it left in our hearts.

Psalm 51 has so many great prayers to God for restoration and healing.  Here’s a couple:

Verse 2:  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Verse 7: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Verse 12 — Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

God has a 1-800-Repairman hotline.  He not only answers 24/7 He jumps into action when needed.  It’s time to ask God to completely remove those the negative emotions from our past.  To be completely renewed.  To be completely healed.

A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin again after each stumble – because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time.

C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Isn’t God so loving, so unique in this trait?  He lives as our own mini-repairman right in our souls.  We don’t need to wait for the next appointment (in 3 weeks) or be disappointed when he doesn’t show up.  All we need to do is ask God to fix us.  And even if we aren’t sure exactly what the problem is, if we ask him to make a diagnosis He will – free of charge.  

I know that I will mess up and break some things in my life.  I also know that when I gave my life over to Christ I got a lifetime warranty.  All repairs covered upon asking.


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He Pursues Us

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shouldersand goes home.  Luke 15:3-5

I’ve always been the kind of person that makes sure no one is left behind or left out.  This served me well as a Girl Scout leader.  I was always counting heads making sure none of my little sheep got lost.  I can count two times in my 13 years as a leader of two troops where someone was lost.  One was an adult so I wasn’t quite as concerned about that.  But the other was a child, who was being supervised by another adult while at an amusement park.  When all our groups gathered for a “touching base” the adult mentioned he hadn’t seen her in a bit.  The casualness of his report shocked me.  I went immediately into “Lost Sheep” mode – sending out the troops to start searching and contacting the park security team.  Thankfully the young lady was found within a short period of time.  But my trust in the adult was gone.

As a Christian we should take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus will never take our missing status casually.  I praise God today that he pursues us even when we don’t realize we are lost.  

In past praises I’ve mentioned I love the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.  She didn’t realize she was lost.  She just knew her life was miserable.  He sought her out and changed her life forever.  A sheep brought into the fold.  This weekend I had the pleasure of learning about another woman at the well that was pursued by God – Hagar.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”  Genesis 16: 7-8

Hagar, as a refresher, was Sarai’s slave.  Sarai encouraged her husband Abram to sleep with Hagar in order to have offspring.  But once Hagar became pregnant, Sarai treated her slave terribly.  Hagar fled to escape further persecution.  And the “Angel of the Lord” – Jesus – sought her out.

What I learned about this small scene in Genesis made the story all the more comforting.  First, this is the first instance in the Bible that the “Angel of the Lord” makes His appearance.  Second, this is the only time God addresses a slave and calls her by name.  On top of that He makes what can only be called a promise, or a covenant, with someone other than the Israelites.  And it’s this slave who names God.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

Just think of it.  This lowly slave.  Someone not worthy of anything in man’s eyes being sought after and called by God.  Being allowed to speak with God and helping us know who He is.  If God pursues her, how can He not pursue me?

That little Girl Scout that got separated from her group? She didn’t think she was lost. She was distracted by the bells and whistles of the amusement park. Left on her own long enough she would’ve certainly gotten emotional. Friends, so many of us lose our way or become slaves to something or someone.  And sometimes we run away from everything to try and be free. In all these circumstances we’ve moved from His safe folds to the dangerous pitfalls of the world. But He will pursue you.  You just need to stop and rest at the well for a minute and listen to His voice beckoning you home.


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Our Elegant World

The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Genesis 2:9

Some time ago I set about trying to change myself completely.  I told my friends I wanted to be more “sparkly.” What that meant to me was someone who, when they enter a room, people instantly want to be around.  Someone who’s laughter draws others in to their sphere.  Someone who seems so light of heart and lacking in any strife.  Someone who, I said once, practically poops out glitter.  Well shock of shocks, I realized that I’m just not ever going to be that person.  So, I decided if I’m not “sparkly” then maybe I should try to be “elegant.”  

I absolutely love Pinterest.  You can ask it how to do anything and up pops a bazillion articles on how to do it.  So, as I was scrolling through one day, I kept getting all these “Traits of an Elegant Woman” posts.  However, after a recent theology night at my church I decided “elegant” wasn’t my ballywig either.  After making some goofy jokes and embarrassing myself in front of complete strangers I realized I had failed just about every point on the “elegant woman” list.  So maybe God just wants me to be a better version of who He made me to be?  Now there’s a thought!

But in my short-lived quest of elegance, I noticed that God, Himself, has created so much elegance in our world.  The Merriam Webster dictionary defines elegance this way:

  1. Refined grace
  2. Tasteful richness of design
  3. Restrained beauty
  4. Scientific precision

Today I praise God for His elegant creations and His elegant ways.  But what do I mean by that?  In looking at that list what comes to mind are the everyday sunrises and sunsets of which He blesses our earth.  A glorious butterfly that languishes on a leaf.  A smooth and quiet breeze.  A gentle pattering of rain.

There’s so much to our world that really isn’t necessary for sustaining life.  Yet God not only made things good, He made them very good.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  Genesis 1:31

God is so elegant in the big things like sunsets but also in the behind-the-scenes system of how everything works seamlessly.  Think about the entire process of our water cycle: water evaporates from the ocean, creates condensation and is stored in the atmosphere, ice and snow drop, water comes down through rivers and groundwater, and the run-off goes back into the original source.  So cool.  

This God elegance isn’t always what we might call beautiful.  Sometimes it seems terribly violent.  A wildfire rips through a forest causing destruction.  And yet that fire was also made by God.  A necessary step in another elegantly crafted eco-system. 

As inhabitants of this world, it’s so easy to not see the minutiae or even the bigger picture.  We get trapped in our small, daily lives of running errands, paying bills, raising kids, etc.  We should all take time on a regular basis to stop and admire this elegantly crafted world.  Lay on your back and contemplate the clouds.  Roll over and feel the life giving dirt beneath the grass.  Be amazed how the seed from that dandelion blows and lands to bury into the ground to create new life.  And marvel about how very, very good it all is.


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Death to My Evil Twin

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

One of the most amazing gifts God has given us humans is our mind.   The brain weighs about 3 pounds and contains around 100 billion neurons— cells that carry information.  There’s an old myth that we only use about 10 percent of our brains.  That has been debunked.  I know that must’ve been false because it seems some people don’t even use that much!  But seriously, new studies show how much of our brain we actively use varies from person to person.

I can tell you without a doubt that my mind runs 24/7 – seemingly all by itself.  And usually, off into thoughts that seem like they belong in someone else’s body.  It’s my destructive thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough.  I’m not worthy.  I’m not loved.  I will never be forgiven.  I’m ugly, fat, wrinkly, etc.  It’s like my mind gets taken over by my evil twin.

Isn’t that the battleground so many of us find ourselves on day and night?  Those anxious thoughts that keep us looking at the clock at 1am, 2am, 3am….?

Praise God that He gave us a shield and sword to fight back the beast who is really behind all those thoughts – the devil himself.

My friend Caroline gave me a great tool last year that helps me in this spiritual battle.  It’s a piece of paper with three columns.  The first column lists the destructive thought such as, “There’s nothing special about me.”  The second column speaks God’s truth against that thought with statements like, “I have been chosen/set apart by God.”  And the third column lists the shields and swords of God—related scripture.  In this example it lists Ps 139, 1 Cor. 1:30 & 6:11, Eph 1:4, and Hebrews 10:10 & 14.

This handy guide is something I can pull out whenever my evil twin brain decides to ruin my day or disrupt my sleep!  The best part?  You have the same tool at your fingertips.  The Word of God was given to us not just to learn more about Him but to help tear down those thought strongholds that want to rule our lives.  His mighty words were what Jesus Himself used when tempted by the devil.

I was recently reading in my Sparkling Gems from The Greek about the difference between using His Word as a “logos” or a “rhema.”  Logos is a “sweeping stroke.”  When we study the Bible this way we get broad and full direction for our lives.  But in Ephesians 6:17 the word “rhema” is used.  That means a sharp and fatal blow to the enemy.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God: Ephesians 6:17

What Paul is directing us to do is have at the ready “fighting words.”  God’s words that we can call up quickly to mind and tear apart any thoughts the devil wants to use against us.  And we can use those words knowing the power and authority that lay behind them.  

God in His greatness knows how amazing our mind is – He created it.  He knows the power and dangers of our imagination and our thoughts.  The devil knows it too.  But with the gracious gift of the Holy Bible we can shield ourselves from the devil’s lies.


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The God of Hope

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

When you hear people argue about God being a man-made construct I always wonder what they think about the concept of hope.  Hope, in general, is experienced by other animals in simplistic forms.  My dog hopes that a piece of my dinner will fall off my plate in to his mouth.  And given his level of whining and drooling his hopefulness can get pretty intense.  But if my dog were to say, get cancer, would he understand the hopefulness of being cured?  When my previous dog, Molly was old and ill we called in a woman who does home euthanasia.  As the drugs were administered into Molly’s body we gave her a feast of her favorite treats.  She resisted succumbing in her desire for one more treat.  But was she able to hope to not die?  To hope that something better awaited her after death?

It seems throughout God’s animal kingdom creatures were gifted with just enough mental capacity to meet their basic needs.  It’s obviously so or else we’d see them building super computers and skyscrapers.  The animal kingdom doesn’t concern themselves with their fellow animals’ living conditions in far off lands, much less those in the house next door.  As humans, God instill in us something that no man can truly explain.  A sense of the past, the present, and a hope for the future.

It’s that hope, that “looking forward to God’s good work” in our situation that is so uniquely human.  And I praise God for it.  

Like love, hope is found in many forms.  We can hope it doesn’t rain out the baseball game.  We hope we get the job.  We hope our vacation turns out the way we dream.  We can hope for a better life.  Hope for a cure.  Hope for a child.  But the hope God really wants us to rely on is the hope based on trusting that what He has in store for you and I is for good.  

We can have hope that the trials we currently are going through will teach us something important and will leave us with something good.  We can have hope that God has a good plan for not only ourselves but for our families who believe in him. We can place our hope in a future beyond this place more glorious than we can imagine.

I’m so thankful God gifted us with this unique brand of hope.  Without it we have hopelessness and despair.  We would be left only with anger and disappointment and confusion.  

When I look around these days, I can see the destructiveness from lacking in God’s hope.  The aching and yearning for answers.  It leads people to depression, violence, and self- harm.  But that’s because deep in each of us is the knowledge that brokenness is not the state God wants for us.  Its foreign in our bodies and therefore makes us uncomfortable and unhappy with life.  We desire to be hopeful.  Some of us just haven’t accepted the prescribed method – God.


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His Next Chapter

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10

I was asked recently in a Bible study to list all the religious and “good works”  activities I do.  This included serving my family and friends.  After making the list we were then to write who we do those activities for – other people, ourselves, or God.  I have to admit that my list was mostly things I do for myself.  Including said Bible study.

How often do we go to church to “fill ourselves up?”  When we join a small group or Bible study is it in service to God or to help us learn more about ourselves?  Or worse still, out of some obligation?  When we clean our floors is it to please our spouses?  When we volunteer to help in the church childcare, usher, fill bags for the needy, is it to elevate ourselves or check off our boxes?

I recently had a bit of a perspective shift about why I should devote myself to my Bible studies.  In the past, I’ve taken the point of view that they help me either “fix myself” or learn more about God.  But what if instead we view our study time as just the first, necessary step to then fulfilling our obligations to God?  To be prepared for Him to use us in ways He has planned?  The last step isn’t to die daily to sin.  Our last step is to be His implements, His well trained workers. Like students at medical school. They take classes to become medical doctors. Students don’t stop at just the classes. They have a goal — to cure people.

Today I praise God for His expectations of us.  He expects us to learn how to lean on Him and trust Him.  He expects us to clean up our hearts and minds for Him.  But all that is in anticipation of Him sending us out to fulfill His plans.  

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  James 2:14

I’ve met Christians who, though they love the Lord and have worked on cleaning up their own house, have stopped at their own doorstep.  They are satisfied with not stepping forward and saying, “You’ve worked a good work in me and I’m ready for what you need of me.” 

It’s not enough for us to stop being prideful.  To stop seeking revenge.  To stop worrying.  To stop loving money.  We need to ask God, “What do you want me to do with this great thing you have done?”

And now that I’m thinking differently about God’s expectations, I’m looking at my time with God in a new light.  When I go to church, I want to learn more about Him and worship Him.  I want to actively thank God for allowing me to serve my family and friends in His name.  And I’m asking, ”what in this text or in this Bible study question can prepare me to serve Him?”  I don’t want to stop being a part of God’s plan at the end of the book.  I want to help Him write the next chapter of something new.